Griffin set on making Aussie Olympic team, won’t play in WNBA

March 17, 2016

Kelsey Griffin basketball

Kelsey Griffin

The greatest women’s basketball player from Alaska is getting closer to becoming an Olympian – it just won’t be with Uncle Sam.

Eagle River’s Kelsey Griffin is an Australian naturalized citizen and has become one of the most dominating players in the country’s premier women’s league with the Bendigo Spirit.

The 28-year-old all-star forward is among 27 women competing for a dozen spots on the Australia Opals Olympic Team for this summer’s Rio Games in Brazil.

Griffin, of Chugiak High fame, will participate in four selection camps over the next several months before the final roster is announced.

That means Griffin won’t return to the WNBA, which opens training camp in May. She would rather focus on her Olympic dream.

“I am really excited to be chosen in the Opals training squad and I want to give that everything I can,” she told the Bendigo Advertiser newspaper in Australia. “While I enjoyed the WNBA, I love Australia more and want to contribute as much as I can to the Opals and to Australia and Bendigo.”

The 6-foot-2 forward has flourished in her four seasons down under.

In 2013 and 2014 she led Bendigo to the league championship and was twice named grand final MVP.

In 2015 she got back to the final and won the league’s defensive player of the year award.

This year she was named one of the top five all-stars for the second straight year after averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game before a hamstring injury cut her season short. Bendigo missed the playoffs.

Griffin’s WNBA career was a different story.

After an All-America senior season at the University of Nebraska, she was the third overall pick in the 2010 draft by Minnesota only to be traded later that same day to the Connecticut Sun.

In five seasons with Connecticut she played in three playoff games.

Griffin enjoyed her best WNBA season in 2013 when she started all 34 games and put up career high totals for minutes, points, rebounds, steals and blocked shots.

She is one of four Alaskans to play in the WNBA and ranks first among them with 801 points and 683 rebounds. She is second with 170 games.